Spot the triggers before it’s too late.
If you’re in recovery and you get that sinking feeling that you’re about ready to relapse, don’t despair. There are some things you can do to help get yourself back on the steady road to improvement that has worked for many others and may very well work for you. Of course, the first thing you need to do is to stop and think about what’s going on in your life that’s causing you to feel like you absolutely have to pick up that drink, do drugs, go out and gamble, or engage in other addictive behaviors. There has to be some underlying motivation, a reason that you have begun to feel this way. It isn’t all in your head. If you sit down and analyze what’s been going on in your life recently, you should be able to identify the triggers.
Have you been putting in long hours at work? You may be exhausted, or filled with stress trying to meet deadlines, or trying desperately to make up for lost time. Any of these can be triggers that arrive unannounced and threaten to derail your sobriety. Make a list of what you come up with. This is important because, as you know, you can’t do anything about a situation until you know what you’re dealing with. Put everything down, even if you think it’s not that important. In recovery, you can’t take anything for granted. Once you have your list, you can start being proactive about how to handle these stressors and triggers. Maybe you’ve lumped several things together, or find that you’re thinking about more than one at any given time. That’s why it’s important to list things separately, to allow you to differentiate between them. One way to put some distance between them is to think of them as people, places and things (the triggers). Trying to be a little objective about this may be difficult, but if you keep at it you will be able to separate them out. Obviously, whatever is in the number one to five spots are the most troubling triggers. These are the ones you’ll need to concentrate on and work to overcome. Don’t feel like you have to figure this out on your own.
The reason you have a 12 step sponsor is to help you navigate the tough times in early recovery. That’s what your sponsor has signed on for, to be available to you when you need advice and counsel. Actually, sponsors[PDF] have been where you are now at one point or another in their own recovery. Who better to listen to what’s troubling you and give you the benefit of their experience? In fact, your 12-step sponsor is your lifeline to maintain your sobriety. Sure, he or she can only provide understanding, support, and some recommendations. It’s up to you to follow through and act to maintain your sobriety. But it is a lifesaver to have such an ally always available to you.
What you are doing by seeking the help of your 12 step sponsor and fellow group members is adding to your recovery toolkit. This is essentially an extension of the coping strategies and techniques you first encountered during rehab and in discussions with your counselor. Bottom line: Whenever you feel like you aren’t going to be able to overcome your desire to drink or do drugs or slip back into any addictive behavior, reach out and ask for help.